Are Scribes Worth It for My Medical Practice?

The days of a quickly written, barely legible, assessment and plan for your clinic patients are long gone. There are certainly pros and cons regarding the evolution to more thorough medical documentation. Advantages aside, medical documentation especially of the “Electronic” variety is awkward, slow, repetitive, and impersonal. Assuming your practice has already made the transition to an electronic health record, you have probably seen a significant drop in productivity and a decline in provider satisfaction.

These are the 2 fundamental considerations in evaluating whether a medical scribe would benefit your practice.

1. What is the Financial impact of using a Medical Scribe

2. Is there a Lifestyle improvement from using a Medical Scribe

The easiest consideration to evaluate is the financial impact. It’s so easy to analyze, that most doctors can even do the math (btw, I’m an MD). Since the nation’s top scribe companies charge a flat hourly rate and most practices know how much they collect per patient, the equation can be this simple …

(Daily Scribe Cost) is less than, equal to, or greater than (Additional Daily Revenue).

Financial Assumptions:

• Lets assume a scribe cost of ($20) per hour. So, our Daily Scribe Cost is 8 hours times $20 = $160/day.

• To keep the math simple, we will estimate a collection rate of $80 per patient. A practice would only need to see 2 additional patients to collect $160 to make the financial impact neutral.

The scribe industry has involved rapidly over the past 5 years and the benefit of using a national scribe company today is that the scribes are not employees of your practice. All of the insurance costs, health and 401k expenses, training expenses, HR headaches, and more fall on the backs of the scribe companies. So, the financial and training burdens are not felt by your practice.

Now, lets talk about lifestyle improvements… based on different estimates, providers click an EMR between 750-4000 times during a full day in the clinic or hospital. Most outpatient providers are forced to stay late, work through lunch, or complete charting from home in the evenings and weekends.

Lifestyle Assumptions:

• Using a scribe will eliminate almost all after hours charting

• Using a scribe will help assure that charts are completed daily

• Using a scribe will allow you to spend more time with your patients

It is hard to put a price on time spent documenting during off hours, but lets agree that getting charts done by the end of the day is better than completing them at night and on the weekends.

There is certainly more to the process of deciding whether to use scribes in your practice than just lifestyle improvements and financial considerations. However, with the growing compliance and documentation requirements being added to EHRs, practices must find innovative ways to ease physician burnout and improve productivity. From my perspective, a scribe makes perfect sense and I will absolutely never work clinically again without one.

– Tim Taylor, MD FACEP